Past Hood Intern: Amanda Potter '02
Where are they now?: Amanda K. Potter, 2001-2002 Education Intern
What have you been up to since you graduated from Dartmouth?
I've been very lucky to pursue a career in museum education, which I hadn't even realized was an option until my experiences at the Hood Museum. I got my master's degree in Art History at Williams College in 2006, completing internships at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art and working at Kidspace at MASS MoCA along the way. After Williams, I spent almost 10 years as Educator for Public and University Programs at the Wexner Center for the Arts, at Ohio State University, which was an amazing job where I got to meet some of my artistic heroes like Maya Lin, Mark Bradford, and Jack Whitten. Since 2016, I have served as the Curator of Education and Interpretation at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, overseeing a busy calendar of programming for family, school, university, and community audiences.
Were your original intentions to pursue a career in the arts after college?
Yes and no – when I started at Dartmouth, I wanted to become a music teacher. While music remained an important part of my time in Hanover (I played in the Marching Band and Wind Symphony all four years), once I took my first Art History course, I was hooked. I didn't know how to make it a career, though. Then I had a chance encounter in front of the Hanover Inn with Curator of Academic Programming Kathy Hart, whom I had met several times previously during Art History class visits to the Hood's study storage and galleries. We struck up a conversation and I shared that I was having trouble with a decision. My faculty advisors were encouraging me to write a senior thesis, and even though I wanted to please my professors, it really wasn't what I wanted to do. I loved bringing art and people together. She suggested that I apply for the Hood's senior internship in education. A light bulb went off. This was how I could combine my love of art, teaching, and museums. I was lucky enough to be selected for the internship, and my life was forever changed.
Do you believe that your internship was valuable to your success as someone who went into the arts?
My internship was invaluable in giving me a strong footing to pursue a career in museum education. I was able to work on a wide range of projects, including writing exhibition labels, designing and running a workshop for local families, and assisting with all of the other great work the Hood's educators were doing. My internship cohort was also the first to curate A Space for Dialogue exhibitions, and that was undoubtedly one of the most important experiences of my entire Dartmouth career. It was the first time my ideas had a public forum. My topic was how artists from Goya to Nancy Spero have documented war, in response to the start of military intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq. I was very anxious about potential negative reactions – this was less than a year after 9/11, and emotions were still very raw. Everyone at the Hood was extremely supportive, helping me to strengthen and focus my concept, and I learned so much about every stage of exhibition production—skills that remain tremendously useful in my work to this day.
What do you enjoy most about working in the arts?
It's hard to choose! But part of what I love is challenging people's preconceptions about what art is and who it is for. When art makes it into the daily news, it's often because of an astronomic auction price or a headline-seeking stunt. In most movies and television, museums are only ever shown filled with men in tuxedos and women in gowns. This has all kinds of cascading effects, and leaves many people feeling that art is frivolous, elite, and/or impossible for them to "get." What I try to help visitors understand, especially those who are new to museums, is that people make art for many different reasons, and likewise, there are lots of ways to respond to it. Not liking a particular work or even a whole style of art is totally valid, but it doesn't mean art isn't for you. I often say when introducing tours that you wouldn't go to a restaurant and expect to like everything on the menu. Museums are the same—personal tastes vary so much; look around and explore until you find what you connect with.
What advice would you give to Dartmouth students as they consider their future career choices?
Discover what creativity means to you. So many of us, myself included, reach a point where we struggle to draw something in a realistic way. Rather than look for other ways to be creative, we tell ourselves (or worse, get told by someone else) that we are not "good at art," and leave that part of our lives behind. One of my proudest accomplishments as an intern was getting some of my friends who were engineering majors to visit the Hood for a tour and screenprinting workshop. They loved it and said they wished they'd visited before. It was a great way to de-stress and use a different part of their brain. The Hood has so much to offer the entire student body—I hope more and more Dartmouth students will find their way there and discover what engaging with the arts brings to their lives.
Amanda Potter joined the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University as the Curator of Education and Interpretation in 2016. At the Zimmerli, she has worked to increase access and inclusivity through efforts like eliminating fees for school field trips, adding free family programs, instituting financial aid, and developing a new multi-contact program serving 800 2nd grade students annually. Prior to that, she spent ten years as the Educator for Public and University Programs at the Ohio State University's Wexner Center for the Arts. Her experience also includes work at Kidspace at MASS MoCA, Williams College Museum of Art, and the Hood Museum of Art. She has been published in the Archives of American Art Journal. After receiving her BA in Art History from Dartmouth, she earned her masters from the Graduate Program in the History of Art at Williams College. A native of Glens Falls, New York, she currently lives in New Jersey with her husband (also a Dartmouth '02) and daughter.
Read Amanda's article Fresh Perspectives: A Space for Dialogue Round Table in the 2003 summer Quarterly.